Individual MT sessions

Improvisational Music Therapy (The Nordoff-Robbins Approach) (Adapted from Nordoff, P. and Robbins, C. 1977. Creative Music Therapy. New York: Harper and Row.)

Music therapists in South Africa are mainly trained in the Nordoff-Robbins approach of improvisational music therapy. Typically, improvisational Music Therapy sessions are anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes in length. Within this approach some of the following Music Therapy interventions might be used:

  • Musical improvisation on a variety of different non-melodic and melodic instruments
  • Singing
  • Composition and song writing
  • Movement to music
  • Performance

Although not formally included in improvisational music therapy, the following techniques are sometimes also used:

  • Music listening
  • The employment of other arts modalities to music. For example, drawing, clay work, enactment, and/or dance.

Every music therapy session is highly individualistic, dynamic and constructed by the unique moment-by-moment interaction between the individual client and therapist, based on the needs of the client.

Please refer to the book Taking music seriously: Stories from South African Music Therapy to read about case studies and stories of diverse music therapy work in South Africa. To order this book, e-mail the Music Therapy Community Clinic at

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) (Adapted from GIM Level I Training Manual by South African music therapist Carol Lotter)

Some music therapists are further trained as GIM fellows in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM). Helen Bonny (1990) describes this modality as “a process where imagery is evoked during music listening”. GIM is a depth approach to music psychotherapy based mainly on the Jungian understanding of the psyche seeking integration, balance and individuation. Bonny developed over 40 classical music programmes for specific clinical intentions. Typically GIM sessions are 1.5 hours in length and may be structured as follows: 

  • Pre-talk: The client sets an intention for the therapeutic process based on an aspect which he/she wants to explore further. 
  • Induction: The client is induced into a relaxed state in preparation for music listening. 
  • Music journey and dialogue: Music plays and client describes imagery evoked, while therapist listens, supports or intervenes as necessary. 
  • Mandala: After the music journey, the client is offered a piece of paper with a circle drawn on it (meant to offer containment) and invited to draw freely. 
  • Post-talk: The client reflects on the drawing and journey while links to life are drawn.

Please refer to the South African GIM website for more information on this modality (